Sunday, April 10, 2011


I like to hear about other people's routines. I think it's interesting. But, then again, I also think science fiction and office supplies are interesting, so I might not be the greatest judge of "what's interesting" (also, I'm considering becoming an extreme couponing hoarder--doesn't that sound fascinating?! Could I do it?) This is what I do for my cleaning routine with kids:

I do "Saturday jobs" that I write out for the kids on a notecard in Sharpie, mostly because I love any excuse to write in Sharpie. Each kid has 2 jobs. That's it. No big deal. But they can't play with friends, play video games, etc without having done their jobs. (I let them--encourage them--to sleep in and watch cartoons because that's a Saturday kid tradition I love-until about 10 am, then I get anxious to get on with the day) My kids are really familiar with these jobs, but before they were, I wrote out notecards (in Sharpie)--one for each job and what was required of each:

I do this EVERY Saturday. They help clean the kitchen after dinner throughout the week and are familiar with picking up each day.

*Don't make kids responsible for something you haven't taught them. I learned this important truth when I was studying teaching in college. Basically it means you don't test kids on any information you haven't personally taught them. Assume nothing.

So, in the beginning, I would have a card and go through each step with them. For example, if the first step on "Clean the downstairs bathroom" says:
*Spray cleaner on sink, wipe down and rinse.
I would show them the fastest way to do this--like opening the rag and using the palm of my hand versus a corner of it to wipe it down faster, or how not to use too much spray or you have to rinse forever, or how to wait a minute for the cleaner to break down the grime, etc. These little "tips" show my kids that I want them to succeed, that I expect them to, and that I'm willing to help them do it FASTER, which is what they're most concerned with now (get it over with so I can go play).

So the card would look like this:
Clean the Downstairs Bathroom:
*Spray cleaner on sink, wipe down and rinse.
*Spray cleaner on toilet, top to bottom, wipe down-don't forget base of toilet
*Spray cleaner in toilet bowl, scrub with brush-rinse brush and put back in base.
*Spray cleaner in shower, scrub, rinse
*Wipe down floors
*Get Windex, paper towel, and wipe chrome and mirrors

After I feel they have mastered a card, the next week they would do a different job so that they're used to doing all of them. Of course they have their favorites (take out the garbages in all the rooms and replace liners) and their least favorites (wipe down kitchen table and chairs), but they're willing to do it. And sometimes some of them come to me early in the day to request jobs and get them done with faster so they can go outside faster.

(these are the jobs I'm currently enforcing with my kids' ages, family's needs, etc)

Clean Downstairs Bathroom
Clean Upstairs Bathroom
Wipe Down Kitchen Table and Chairs
Sweep and Mop Kitchen Floor
Vacuum Family Room, Living Room, and Stairs
Vacuum Bedrooms and Halls
Take Out Trash
Windex Windows and Mirrors

This is where a lot of parents drop the ball, in my opinion, because it's just so easy to drop that really heavy ball of following up. I'm embarrassed to admit that when I was a kid, sometimes when it was my job to clean the downstairs bathroom, I would just spray Lysol in the room and say that I did. I know, sorry Mom! So now I'm suspicious of my children and I check the jobs (time consuming) because I don't want them to get lazy and shortcut actually doing the job. I'll make them redo certain parts if I don't think it's good enough. I try really hard not to get mad or impatient. I try to stay calm and say, "Did you really clean out the tub because it looks like you didn't clean the jets and so just try again!" Also, if they know you're going to follow-up, they're less likely to try to shortcut, because it will take longer when you have to, inevitably, do it again. Sometimes they're done it, it just isn't done that well (Like mopping the floor--I'll ask, "Did you sweep before? No? Well, try again! There's still some gunk on the floor and it's gross.")

For general, daily picking up, I keep it simple:

Each of my kids has their own bookshelf and one toy box that goes under their bed (I don't have to look at it.) The toy boxes house their favorite, most used toys and are great because if I say "pick up your room" they know what I mean is I don't want any junk on the floor, so they can put it (usually legos) in their toy box and it's simple and fast to put it there. Then, every Season or so (every 3-4 months), I have them go through their toy boxes and throw stuff away (at their discretion) or put it away in the toy room.

In the Family Room, I have one teal bucket for toys Margaret (3) uses so I don't have to organize those everyday, because she's little and I don't want to put away each random Polly Pocket or puzzle she takes out everyday. I'll go through this bucket every month or so and organize it. (Actually, I'm in the process of getting rid of it now, because she's it's become a dumping ground for unplayedwith toys. But you need this kind of thing if you have really little kids, in my opinion.)

We have a toy room/storage room that houses our video games, puzzles, board games, Barbies, cars, superhero figures, ZuZu pets, etc in their own containers. Each category has its own container. If the kids want to play with something they take it out, then put it away when they're done. It's simple because there's ONE PLACE for Barbies. There's ONE PLACE for DS systems and games, and there's ONE PLACE for puzzles. So if the kids don't know where something is, I say, well, there's only one place for X. . . and they see why it's important (and easy) to put that one thing in its one place.

* I expect my kids to make their beds (they don't have top sheets, just a comforter, so it's easy--thanks for the tip, Kacy!),
*have their room picked up (which means everything's off the floor--no random Legos or books or pieces of paper,
*and to put away their backpacks and shoes (for the love of Zeus, this is the hardest thing for them to learn! This and random socks found all over the house. They put their shoes in front of the bin, next to the bin, but rarely IN THE BIN) These are the three things they are responsible and I know they can do, everyday.

I check up and insist on these three things. Not too many, not too hard.


  1. Guess what I did.

    I just printed this out, that's what.

  2. Following up IS a heavy ball. It's so heavy I can't carry it and I just want to set it down for a while.

  3. Thanks, Lisa! This is PERFECT. I feel guilty during the week because they're not doing chores, but we're all so busy (including me), I just can't bring myself to do it. But I can do the Saturday thing. And I love the idea of the notecards (and so will my kids). My biggest problem is that I really enjoy cleaning and organizing (I find it calming -- I know!), so I'd much rather just clean their rooms myself. But I need to do better about making them do it. p.s. Why are boys so much harder? Lila's not even 2, but goes around the house picking up toys and singing the "clean up" song without any prompting.

  4. Instead of having to give Waldo a back rub this week (thanks for nothing, Topher!) can I give YOU a back rub? Because I love you.

  5. I'm loving these posts, you and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to cleaning and organisation!

  6. I am so making those job cards!! I love your ideas.

  7. I'm so glad this is helpful to someone! Thanks, guys!

    I, too, have found that boys are harder to teach than girls. Sexist, but true in my experience. I think that's why it was good for me to train 2 boys first--harder, but rewarding.

    And to Amy, my fellow cleaner, YES! We are a weird bunch, we who clean and organize to relax. . . just know that I do my big cleaning day on Wednesday which fills that need, and that on Saturday, it's nice for them to do it while you're cleaning something else. There's plenty to go around. But I know what you mean about resisting the urge just to do it ALL yourself. It's still hard for me.

  8. Thanks Lisa! I is really helpful to see what your cleaning routine is!

  9. Helpful hints all--except question thought: You iron, for the love of Zeus, you're amazing!